What is the best part of football season when you’re a fan of a long-suffering team? Draft season, of course!
With the NFL Scouting Combine right around the corner and me already at work sorting out my draft crushes, I figured I would throw together a pre-Combine Bears mock draft. I’ll also have a final mock shortly before draft time, which will likely have various changes as the Combine, free agency, Pro Days, and team workouts take place. As such, this mock will be mostly be speculation based on their college success (obviously) and how they did in the all-star games (East/West Shrine Bowl, Senior Bowl, etc.).
Round 2: Shane Lemieux (G, Oregon)
The Bears’ offensive line in 2019 was bad, to put it kindly. After the disastrous position swap was reverted, James Daniels and Cody Whitehair were easily the best parts of the line, which isn’t really saying much considering how much the unit struggled as a whole. The run game suffered tremendously as a result, as did the pass game (which itself is already hindered by issues of its own at quarterback).
With Kyle Long retiring after an injury-filled final season, the interior needs to be addressed. As much as I liked Alex Bars last season, his future (as with those of other depth O-linemen) is up in the air, especially after Harry Hiestand’s firing. With this in mind, why not try to fish out of the Oregon prospect pool once again?
Shane Lemieux was a stalwart on the Ducks’ offensive line in recent years, playing primarily left guard with starts elsewhere due to injuries. A second-team All-American in 2019, he is a physical player who isn’t afraid to get rough in run blocking. However, his pass protection—while good—can be suspect at times.
It will take time for him to get up to NFL speed and he might not be an opening day starter. Heck, taking him in the second round might be a reach itself.
Round 2: Kyle Dugger (S, Lenoir-Rhyne)
Speaking of reaches, let’s take a look at one of my draft crushes. Kyle Dugger hails from Division II’s Lenoir-Rhyne, and easily fits the strong safety mold that the Bears defense needs. While Ha Ha Clinton-Dix made for a solid tandem alongside Eddie Jackson in 2019, having two free safeties in the defensive backfield meant Jackson’s ball-playing tendencies had to be restricted, reducing him to a still-great-but-not-2018-great safety.
While undersized, Dugger was a hard-hitting force at Lenoir-Rhyne, receiving accolades like the Cliff Harris Award (best defender in DII) as a senior despite not playing the full season. In addition to strong safety, his versatility allows him to play other positions like linebacker and even return specialist. With his physical traits and decision making, he could be a great pickup for Chuck Pagano and will allow Jackson to play his natural free safety role.
After the mess that was the Adam Shaheen experiment, Bears fans might balk at pursuing another small-school prospect, but Dugger is not as raw as the tight end in question. Although I had him as a fourth- or fifth-round pick during the season, his very impressive showing at the Senior Bowl has him as a potential second- or third-rounder; since the Bears don’t have the latter, we might have to reach unless we trade up.
Round 4 (comp): Hakeem Adeniji (OL, Kansas)
With Adrian Amos going Benedict Arnold on the Bears last offseason, they get a compensatory fourth-round pick in the process. Why not double down on the offensive line?
Hakeem Adeniji started 48 games at Kansas; although he was a left tackle for the Jayhawks, he saw time at right guard during the Senior Bowl. He lacks the reach that is ideal for an NFL tackle (meaning he won’t be especially effective around the edges), meaning a switch to the inside might be in the works. That said, his experience at tackle could be valuable to a team searching for help on the line (Charles Leno Jr. had a down year while Bobby Massie struggled with injuries, making OT quite a concern for Chicago).
For the most part, he seems to project as a zone blocking lineman, which is perfect for the Bears as it’s the trademark system of new offensive line coach Juan Castillo.
Round 5: Thaddeus Moss (TE, LSU)
If you were a Bears tight end in 2019, you were going to have a bad time. Trey Burton is a solid player when healthy (which is rare), Shaheen blew up (literally in most cases and figuratively on the field), J.P. Holtz is the fullback thrown into a bad situation, Ben Braunecker is a special teamer also thrown into a bad situation, and Jesper Horsted was a rookie also thrown into a bad situation. When Braunecker, Holtz, and Horsted are your starters by the end of the season, you know you have some changes to make; Matt Nagy already got to work by hiring Clancy Barone, who coached the likes of Alge Crumpler, Antonio Gates, and Kyle Rudolph during his career, as TE coach.
Honestly, as bad as the Bears TEs were, I’ve been hesitant to draft one too early as they generally take time to develop at the pro level, while Burton can still be serviceable enough. With this in mind, it still needs to be addressed via draft, and either LSU’s Thaddeus Moss or Dayton’s Adam Trautman comes to mind. I long debated which of the two to pick, but Moss gets the upper hand in this mock.
Being the son of Randy Moss and Joe Burrow’s teammate might make you think otherwise, but Moss’s biggest strength is run blocking. His blocking technique is solid and he can easily hold off larger, more powerful edge rushers. Moss’s catching ability is decent enough for him to be a factor through the air; while this means he probably won’t be a “U” tight end, a healthy Burton will fill that hole.
With his strengths in mind, Moss obviously doesn’t stand out statistically, but he was a huge role in LSU’s National Championship run, providing Burrow with extra relief as a blocker and receiver. Hey, he could probably also play H-back or fullback with his blocking, and you know I love my fullbacks.
Finally, with how much his father tormented the Bears defense, wouldn’t it be poetic for his son to play for the rival?
Round 5: Malcolm Perry (WR, Navy)
Fair warning: this pick is entirely fueled by my personal bias as a Navy fan.
With Allen Robinson practically carrying the offense at times and Anthony Miller’s late-season stride, wide receiver isn’t necessarily a huge issue for the Bears. Regardless, it doesn’t hurt to fill the position with additional weapons if possible.
Enter one of my favorite college football players of all time.
Malcolm Perry was a Swiss Army (pun intended) knife at Navy, spending time at slotback, receiver, returner, and eventually settling as starting quarterback in his final year. In Navy’s triple option, he was a lethal defense-killing machine, setting school and NCAA rushing records en route to one of the Midshipmen’s most successful seasons ever. While small at just 5’9″, his athleticism makes him a great slot WR prospect and the perfect choice for screens and in the punt return game. With Taylor Gabriel’s injuries and struggles in 2019 (and him being smaller than Perry by two inches), Perry could be a solid replacement.
With the right coaching, he could also probably play the Taysom Hill-type utility player role. His arm obviously isn’t the best, but with Navy adding elements of the run-and-shoot offense in 2019, his throwing ability saw improvement as a senior (I talked a bit about Navy’s aerial progress in my mostly-joking “Bears should run the triple option” post last October).
Thanks to a memorandum signed by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper last fall, service academy players are now allowed to pursue pro sports provided they receive approval from SecDef. With him having a grand total of one carry for 52 yards and a touchdown in the Shrine Bowl and being invited to the Combine, things are looking good for his NFL future. As a Navy fan, I would be absolutely stoked to see Perry in a Bears uniform.
Round 6: Anthony Gordon (QB, Washington State)
I think it goes without saying that Mitchell Trubisky was not good in 2019 and that Ryan Pace needs to look at other options for competition. To do this, in addition to signing a QB in free agency who is content with backing up Trubisky if needed, but also wants the starting job himself, the draft is a great avenue for new QBs. There are many players in the draft class (San Jose State’s Josh Love is my personal favorite as an undrafted free agent, while Mason Fine of North Texas is a name I considered), but as a late-round pick, I’m going with Washington State’s Anthony Gordon.
Gordon has always been an overlooked player during his career, and when it came time for him to run Mike Leach’s Air Raid as a senior, he went off. Being an Air Raid QB, it’s no surprise that he put up gaudy numbers (nine touchdowns against UCLA), and he also had a great showing at the Senior Bowl.
However, outside of cases like Patrick Mahomes and what we saw out of Gardner Minshew as a rookie, quarterbacks from that system generally do not have much success in the NFL. Gordon also tends to struggle under pressure, and it’s hard to tell how he’ll do when taking snaps under center rather than shotgun like in college, but both are correctable with proper coaching.
He has an impressive arm and great leadership, both of which are traits that Nagy would love to have on his team. Riding the Air Raid wave is a risk, but his characteristics make him at least worth a late-round selection.
Round 7: Elijah Riley (S, Army)
Might seem a bit ironic for a Navy fan to look to Army for draft picks, but hear me out.
Like drafting Adeniji even with Lemieux, I decided to boost another position group with multiple picks. In this case, as the late-round flyer, adding Army’s Elijah Riley to provide more help in the secondary.
While Riley was officially a cornerback for West Point, like Dugger, he has versatility and can play multiple positions; he’s currently expected to make the move to strong safety. The 6’0″ Riley has the size to take on receivers and tight ends at either position, and he led the Black Knights in multiple defensive categories including interceptions, tackles for loss, and sacks. He proved he could hang with even the best of college receivers, holding off those like CeeDee Lamb for much of the 2018 Army/Oklahoma game and keeping Michigan in check in 2019.
Prince Amukamara has been a solid cornerback for the Bears opposite Kyle Fuller, but a down year and the cap situation leave his future in doubt. Should Amukamara leave (whether by release or trade), a position battle between Riley and others already on the roster like Tre Roberson could be interesting. Of course, since he’s slotted as a strong safety in the pre-draft process, he could also help out there as Jackson’s partner or even duke it out for the starting role with Deon Bush (and Dugger).